[G]eneral performance reviews and refresher training were eliminated. So while the survey remained in the field and we were still able to generate annual crime estimates, we (Census) and the BJS had limited ability to monitor the quality of the data collected and to ensure that our field staff fully understood what was expected of them.

Fortunately, some training is being restored (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012a, p. 11):

Beginning in August 2011, refresher training of all field representatives (FR) was conducted using an experimental split sample cluster design. This was the first comprehensive refresher training that had been conducted since the 1990s. To maintain consistent year-to-year comparisons, Census and BJS implemented the experiment in a manner that isolated the effects of training without contaminating the annual 2011 estimates.

An issue with the training of interviewers is that rape and sexual assault is only one type of victimization among many on the NCVS questionnaire, and it is rarely reported. However, questions that ask about this topic require special sensitivity from interviewers. The NCVS refresher training for field representatives was 1.5 days in length, during which the NCVS screener was discussed for only 2 hours. Moreover, that 2 hours included not only discussion of methods of asking sensitive screener questions but also many other issues. The trainers provided a number of useful suggestions to follow when interviewing victims of sexual or other sensitive crimes (see Box 8-2). The panel applauds this refresher training, which covered many facets of the NCVS. However the limited time devoted to training on asking sensitive questions, the need for privacy in asking those sensitive questions, and a fuller understanding of sexual victimization did not get the emphasis that is needed in order to ensure complete reporting. And even if adequate training could be provided, such training would not be reinforced through the day-to-day survey process because the NCVS is a general-purpose criminal victimization survey, and an interviewer very infrequently gets a positive response on questions about rape and sexual assault.

CONCLUSION 8-9 The current training for National Crime Victimization Survey interviewers with regard to the subject of rape and sexual assault is insufficient to ensure complete and accurate responses. Moreover, because interviewers only infrequently encounter reports of these crimes, they do not get the opportunity to practice and reinforce the training that they do receive.

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